Michigan settles opioid case, receiving funds for opioid abatement.
Michigan is set to receive its portion of a $81 million settlement as a part of two multi-state opioid cases. The distribution of the money was expected to initially begin in the fourth quarter of 2022 but was put on pause by several legal challenges that were brought forth by the Ottawa County Commission. On January 13th, Wayne County Circuit Judge Patricia Fresard granted the Attorney General’s request for the summary disposition, which then cleared the previous challenges that were faced in the pursuit of these settlement distributions.
In a statement, Attorney General Dana Nessel stated, “It’s critical that communities throughout Michigan are indemnified for the harm they suffered due to the recklessness of the opioid manufacturers and distributors. The frivolous challenge by Ottawa County delayed millions of dollars from being put to good use to help Michigan residents and our communities recover.”
The $81 million multi-state opioid settlement is only the first three payments of these settlements. Since September 2022, there have been three Notices of Payment that totaled around $81.6 million provided by the National Settlement Administrator before Ottawa County disputed and thus paused them.
In total, the state of Michigan is expecting upwards of $1.45 billion from opioid settlements, some of which are still processing. The funds that Michigan receives will be directed to the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund, which was created back in 2022.
One of the requirements of the multi-state settlement is that the three distributors collectively pay up to $21 billion over the next 18 years. The total amount of money that will be distributed is entirely determined by how cooperative both the non-litigating and litigating state and local governments are with the terms of the settlement. This includes how the state uses the money once it has been granted, as a “substantial majority” of this money is to be spent on the treatment and prevention of opioid use and users.
The share of the funding that each state received in the multi-state opioid settlement was based on an agreement that used a formula that accounted for both the population of the state and the impact of the opioid crisis within it. The number of people who have overdosed, the number of residents that have substance abuse disorders, and the number of opioids prescribed are all determinant factors in the formula. The hope of this formula is to ensure that the states that have been impacted by the crisis the highest are given the resources they need.
Among other things, the court order required Johnson & Johnson to stop selling opioids and to not fund or provide grants to third parties that participate in the promotion of opioid use. The company is also no longer allowed to lobby on opioid-related activities, and it now must share all clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project. Johnson & Johnson is the highest paying individual entity in this settlement and is responsible for paying up to $5 billion over nine years and up to $3.7 billion within the first three years.
In 2020, Michigan received $17.5 million in federal grant money to take on the opioid crisis, and, among other grant initiatives, created an ‘End the Stigma’ campaign. As part of this campaign, MDHHS’s website states, “Many words associated with substance use disorder are stigmatizing and using those words can prevent people who need treatment from seeking help. People with substance use disorders and people in recovery are more likely to seek substance abuse treatment and maintain sobriety when they develop social connections. Isolation, discrimination, and prejudice are obstacles to social inclusion…” The campaign encourages people to promote “social inclusion” by “treating people affected by substance use disorder with respect; learning about the science of mental health conditions; correcting others who have misconceptions about substance use disorders and mental illnesses; supporting resources for people affected by mental illnesses; (and) sharing End the Stigma campaign materials.” Michigan reported over 3,000 overdose fatalities in 2021 (the last year for which up-to-date data is available).